October 2009

The strange tale of a bear, a baby and a back seat

By Suzanne Strazza

Last fall, I found myself driving over the hill to Durango at 4 a.m. without a drop of caffeine in me. Why? You ask.

Well, because I was with folks who, for religious reasons, do not indulge in the toxic substance that feeds my soul.

Or were you asking why I was on the road at that hour? Well, my sweet young friend, S, was in the backseat of my Subaru, having back-to-back contractions and verging on birthing a baby in said backseat.

Also in the car were the Baby Daddy, who, turns out wasn’t really the Baby Daddy but is now, and S’s sister-in-law who is a ROCK.

Earlier that evening, S called me just as I was crawling into bed. “Suz, I think I am in labor. Can you come over?”

“Sure, I was just looking around for something to occupy myself, why not go deliver a newborn.”

Sure enough, she was in labor. Slow at first, but things picked up pretty darn fast.

Her brother and dad were there, clad in camo, draped over the piles of clean laundry stacked on the Lazy Boy and the couch. They had just spent the day elk-hunting (unsuccessfully) and were exhausted and quite stinky. A, the sister- in-law, was there, timing the contractions, giving the impression that this was something that she did every day – instead of her being a birthing virgin.

When it finally became clear that this baby was not going to stop trying to find a way out, we decided to leave for the hospital. I grabbed S and A, and told the men to take their own vehicle.

We drove over to Baby Daddy’s house to pick him up, looking like a deer in the headlights and just as we pulled out onto the highway, the phone rang. We had the keys to the man-car. So, after dealing with that, all while S’s contractions were about a minute and a half apart, we started over the hill.

I drove along, trying to be calm while rehearsing in my head all that I know about cords and shoulders and placentas in case I ended up being in charge of getting all of that into the world on the side of 160.

Suddenly, A gasped and I looked out her side of the windshield just in time to see the fuzzy brown head with the cute round ears flash in my headlights before flying through the air. The resounding THUMP came a split second later.

F*%$. Oh, God, did I just say that in a car full of the faithful? Yes, of course I did.

I backed up, ready to jump out of the car and attend to Ursa minor, not really thinking about Ursa major (momma) lingering on the sidelines ready to avenge her baby’s death. I did realize, as S’s moans were quickly intensifying, that to take the time to deal with the bear was going to cost us the possibility of delivering in the hospital. Just then an 18-wheeler flew down the hill in the other direction and promptly put to rest any question I had of whether or not the bear was truly dead.

Knowing that I was not leaving a suffering animal in the middle of the road, I drove on. Adrenaline rushing, I no longer missed the caffeine and thought that, “I can at least be thankful for that.”

When we headed out past Bodo towards the hospital, S dragged herself out of her trance to ask if we could stop at Wal-Mart.

“Are you F-ing kidding me???!!??” Yes, I said it again. “Do you really think that we have time to go shopping right now, Crazy Girl?”

“Baby Daddy’s going to be sick.”

Now my friends, being much more well-mannered than I am, don’t just pull over onto the side of the road and let loose whatever bodily fluids need to be disposed of. Since I am a roadside pee-er, vomiting on the side of the road is a given.

Thank goodness there are some people in this world with more class than I possess.

We pulled up in front of the Wal- Mart entrance, Daddy running out the door before I had even stopped mov ing. I figured that I should take a moment to check out the damage to the front of the Subaru.

It was covered in bear poo. (Thank God, not Pooh Bear).

I walked in and asked the cashier for some paper towels.

She asked if I was okay.

“Well, I have a gal about to give birth in the back seat of my car out there, the dad is currently puking in your restroom and the front of my car is covered in feces from the baby bear that I just killed.”

“Here,” she replied, “take the whole roll.”

We made it to the hospital on time and a beautiful baby boy was born shortly afterwards. Daddy’s brother and pregnant sister-in-law killed an elk on their way to join the party.

I stopped to sit with the bear on my way home. I sobbed into his fur. I made a spectacle of myself. (Once again). I talked to anyone who would listen, attempting to alleviate my guilt.

Many a friend tried to find spiritual meaning in the bear’s death: “This bear gave its life for that baby”; “That bear was on its own path – it was his destiny.”

None of it helped. I grieved.

And then a very wise man said to me, “Suzanne, shit happens.” And those were the magic words.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.